In the battle for the streaming media living room, a new report shows that Roku is winning in both raw numbers in the U.S. as well as in overall usage. According to Parks Associates, the streaming media set-top box provider racked up 46% of streaming media players purchased in the U.S. in 2013 while Apple had just 26%.

In addition, among households in the U.S. that have broadband internet services and at least one streaming media player, 44% use a Roku player the most versus 26% who say they use an Apple TV player the most. Not surprisingly, those numbers closely reflect the install bases in U.S. households.

“Multiple factors have allowed Roku to outpace Apple in U.S. sales and usage,” notes Barbara Kraus, director of research for Parks Associates. “Roku has always had a close association with Netflix, the largest source of video downloads, and currently offers more than 1,700 channel apps as well as a choice of models with different features and price points, all of which appeal to consumers’ purchasing instincts. With Amazon entering this CE category, there will be renewed pressure on all players to develop the best combination of ‘can’t miss’ content with a simple and intuitive interface.”roku vs apple tv media players

There is more to the living room story, though. For instance, what about Google’s inexpensive streaming media stick, Chromecast? In a survey in the first quarter of 2014, Google sold as many Chromecast units in six months in the U.S. as Roku sold in all of 2013 — but overall, the love affair with Chromecast seems to fade fast: Park Associates reports that usage of Chromecast has steadily declined since its introduction.

The Amazon Fire TV

Parks Associates isn’t counting the new Amazon Fire TV — because it was recently introduced this year — but does note that it is helping to drive expansion of the household streaming media player category [read my Amazon Fire TV review here]. In fact, by 2015, Parks Associates expects that more than 25% of U.S. households will have a streaming media player.

As for Apple, which is the world’s largest consumer electronics company, what the heck is going on?

“While approximately 50% of U.S. households have at least one Apple product, such as an iPhone or iPad, the company has not yet been able to leverage this success for its Apple TV offering,” Kraus says. “Apple has not committed support and promotion to its Apple TV product line in the U.S., and its sales reflect this fact. But they are the global sales leader in this category, having sold approximately 20 million units worldwide as of April 2014, compared to an estimated eight million for Roku at the end of 2013. As Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, emerges as a new competitor in this space, it could awaken the sleeping giant that is Apple.”

Of course, Apple’s Apple TV is a fairly old product — the last hardware update was over two years ago. Apple frequently updates the device with new software and new app channels, but in its current form, the Apple TV is hard to recommend because the line is well overdue for a major update. Most rumors and expectations look toward September or October.

Parks Associates reports global sales for streaming media players will reach nearly 50 million by 2017 while broadband household penetration in the U.S. will exceed 38%.

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About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.